Does it portend a quick recovery for U.S. automakers also hit hard by the virus crash?
Wuhan famously pioneered the lockdown measures forced by COVID-19 that were embraced, eventually, by the rest of the world.
Now, the city of 11 million people in central China appears to have the virus under control and, after 74 days on lockdown, is opening back up for business. Wednesday morning marked the official lockdown lift, and residents are now permitted to travel in and out of the city without a special permit. But prior to this, some businesses had gradually begun to reopen.
And as some auto showrooms ramped back up in mid-March, what many guessed would be a tepid return is turning out to be much more pronounced. According to Automotive News, after sales near zero in February, some Wuhan dealerships say their daily sales are already back up to pre-pandemic levels.
Some experts in China believe there has even been a shift in consumer preferences in response to the virus crisis, suggesting that some buyers are choosing smaller vehicles as second cars to replace their previous use of crowded public transit. One dealership said their uptick in first-time buyers was significant, and they were catering to many medical professionals.
Although it’s anecdotal, this information is in fact supported by analysts at the China Passenger Car Association, which predicts the Chinese auto industry will be back to pre-crisis levels by the end of this month.
This may be offering a glimmer of hope to automakers who are in the thick of a downturn here in the U.S., where plant shutdowns are so widespread that fewer cars will be built this month than any time since World War II.